Bill Adams (Photographer)

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Bill Adams

Bill Adams performing a guitar solo with Höt Lixx in his trademark squatting position. Photo by Mads Bilal
Background information
Birth name Bill Adams
Other names Ace, Squatter
Born 26 May 1964(1964-05-26)
Dayton, Ohio, US
Genres Glam Rock, Heavy Metal, Heroic Portraiture
Instruments Guitar, View camera
Years active 1983–present
Labels Atlantic Records

Bill Adams is an American photographer who claims to be the grandson of legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams. He was lead guitarist for the glam metal band Höt Lixx in the late 1980s, where he was notorious for performing in a squatting position. Adams was kicked out of the band after it was revealed that he had plagiarized the heavy metal anthem Balls to the Wall with his 1990 song, Balls to the Mall.

He is recognized for the photographic series, "The Master Suite," celebrating what he calls "The Great Dictators." He has also made a series of controversial historical claims: that Harry Callahan was the inspiration for the 1971 film Dirty Harry, that drinking fixer in moderation cures irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), that Henri Cartier-Bresson was a member of Opus Dei, and that 19th-century photographic pioneer Josiah Hawes used a mercury enema to murder photographers who had abandoned the daguerreotype process.

Neville Nubbin-Saunders called Adams "possibly the most obnoxious, talentless jackass in the history of photography,"[1] while Ruell van Bronckhorst dismissed him as "an offensive human being."[2] Adams has called his critics "jealous" and "sick."

Contents [hide]

[edit]Early Life

Bill Adams was born William Edward Adams on May 26, 1964, in Dayton, Ohio. He maintains that his father Edward W. Adams was the illegitimate son of Ansel Adams, although he has produced no documentation to support this contention. Ansel's son Michael (born 1933) addressed the allegation in an interview with San Francisco television station KLPT in 2008: "Dad was the most decent man I ever knew. The idea that he was tomcatting around the Midwest is grotesque."[3] Noting that no claim of paternity was ever filed, Gerund McKay, the lawyer for the Ansel Adams estate, called on Bill Adams to release his birth certificate.[4] Bill Adams tweeted in response, "i pitty the fool."[5]

Beginning in 1964 Ansel Adams' diaries contain numerous cryptic references to "The Boy in the Purple Tunic," sometimes abbreviated TBITPT, and Bill has claimed to be The Boy. In a critical analysis on, Randy Guy writes,

Between 1964 and his death in 1985, Ansel's diaries contain 157 references to "The Boy in the Purple Tunic," later "TBITPT" or "da Boy." Too many historians have accepted Michael Adams' claim that it was probably (CNN journalist) Anderson Cooper. In 1967 Ansel's diary has a page with different colors written on it: lavender, eggplant, plum, lilac, violet, amethyst, periwinkle, mauve, aubergine, and grape. Most of them are scratched out, but he's circled "purple." Then there's a rambling entry in 1972, discussing how the tunic stays so shiny. By the end the handwriting is almost illegible. In 1978 he wrote, "TBITPT deserves to be shot, and not at f/64." There's just one sentence scrawled on the last page: "SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND."[6]

There is no known photograph of The Boy in the Purple Tunic, and no proof he even existed. But Bill Adams recently told Lightheaded: "To this day the color purple makes me see red" (although he later claimed he was referring to the 1985 Steven Spielberg film).[7]

Adams has often provided exaggerated, misleading and conflicting stories about his background. At various times he has claimed: he killed a man with his bare hands,[8] he grew up in a traveling circus,[9] he was a member of Andy Warhol's Factory,[10] he ran the largest numbers racket in the Midwest,[11] and, he was offered a full scholarship to Juilliard.[12] Queried about apparent discrepancies in these accounts, he angrily declared, "The details are not important. Mine is the story of Jesus, of Moses, Buddha, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Nixon, Tony Manero, and of all the others who dared to dream."[13]

Bill Adams has made explosive allegations against members of the legendary Group f/64 of photographers, including Ansel, going so far as to accuse founding member Imogen Cunningham of murder:

The history books say they all went their own ways. Fact is, f/64 disbanded because Dad and Ed (Weston) feared the Freemasons, Imogen (Cunningham) and Willard (Van Dyke). Dad always called Willard "VD," but he was pretty harmless. Imogen was hard-core. Dad would say, "Imogen puts the cunning in Cunningham." The Zone System was a direct response to the anti-rationalist creed of the Freemasons. But he had to keep quiet: he saw what they did to Ed. Parkinson's, my ass, he had mercury poisoning. And who maintained the largest private supply of mercury west of the Mississippi? You guessed it—Imogen Cunningham. She made Typhoid Mary look like Little Boy Blue.[14]

Historian Darren Lord Newton responded, "Imogen Cunningham remains one of the truly beloved figures in the history of photography, a kind of mater familias to a generation of women photographers. These loathsome accusations are yet another example of Adams' penchant for ugly and irresponsible innuendo."[15] Adams called Newton "totally tantamount."[16]


Bill Adams has claimed kinship with well-known photographers Robert Adams, Eddie Adams, Ronnie Ray Adams, and Shelby Lee Adams, often announcing, "I've got royal blood, Baby." Robert Adams has denied any relation, stating, "The only Bill Adams I know is my cat."[17] Ronnie Ray Adams, recognized for his documentation of hillbilly culture in Tennessee, has known Bill Adams for twenty years, although he's uncertain if they're related. He recently told interviewer Don Pedro Keister,

Billy said we was cousins, and oftentimes it ain't easy reckonin' kinship in these parts. He had a burr in his saddle about the Adams Dynasty, an' how Freemasons robbed us o' somethin' he called "historical potency," I think. He said he got proof one of our ancestors was the bastard son of John Quincy Adams. And that there child was murdered by Freemasons and buried on JQ's lap. It’s wilder 'n a junebug in a mason jar! It wasn't 'til last spring that I gets to thinkin': can your ancestor've died as a little boy? I don't know. Still, I wish they'd up an' open that grave.[18]

The caretaker of the Adams family crypt, Hamilton Lincoln Mark IV, stated in December, 2011: "John Quincy Adams was interred three times, the last in 1852, four years after his death, in the family crypt in the United First Parish Church in Quincy, Massachusetts, next to his father John Adams. Given the circumstances of that final burial it is inconceivable that another individual was interred with him."[19] Bill Adams reacted angrily on his blog: "He's in turd? This is an insult to the Adams legacy, and reveals the foul practices that allowed this travestication to occur in the first place."[20]

[edit]Höt Lixx

Bill Adams played in various local bands in high school, where he acquired the nickname "Ace" for the bandage he often used as a headband. He played guitar, with classmate Ronni Brandt providing vocals, in the short-lived band Hott Jockolate. He then became the lead guitarist for the heavy metal glam band Höt Lixx, from its founding in 1983 until his departure in 1991. The band was formed in Dayton, Ohio, by former Goyter frontman Rikki Foreman. The original lineup consisted of: Foreman (lead vocals, guitar), Adams (lead guitar), childhood friend Ronni Brandt (drums), and Franklin "Numnutz" Roosevelt (bass). The band played clubs in the Cleveland area between 1983 and 1986, where it attracted an enthusiastic local following. When they signed with Atlantic Records in 1986, they relocated to Los Angeles and became immersed in the burgeoning metal scene. At the suggestion of the label, the group adopted a logo featuring an immense, drooling tongue within vaguely Gothic lettering.

Höt Lixx was the opening act for White Lion on its 1987 U.S. tour. Their energetic performances featured pyrotechnics, enormous teased hair, platform boots, choreographed strutting, and high-pitched harmonies. Working with veteran producer Sergio Spicer, the band released its first album, Git Yer Lixx, with a single inspired by Jethro Tull's Aqualung entitled Aquanet. It hit #5 in Denmark. The band reached #27 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in August 1989 with the power ballad Höt Chixx, from their second album XX. The video, featuring rhythmic gyrations by the band interspersed with girls in a hot tub, went into heavy rotation on MTV. Rolling Stone called XX "mindless hair metal that trots out every cliché—cars, girls, and partying—without a trace of irony or humor."[21] A Metal Mania magazine review, however, gave the album four stars (out of seven).[22]

Adams was ranked 61st in Rolling Stone's 1989 survey of metal guitarists,[23] and was known for his spectacular purple capes and boots. But he quickly became notorious for his unusual posture during performances. Drummer Ronni Brandt recalled in a 2002 interview, "You'd look over during his solos, and he'd be in sort of a squatting position, I mean really hunkered down, with this intense expression, like he was concentrating on something. Even the groupies were kind of freaked out. You'd try to talk to him about it, and he'd go, 'Ace is Wild'."[24]

Höt Lixx's 1990 album fU. From left to right: Ronni Brandt, Rikki Foreman, Bill Adams, and Franklin Roosevelt.

The title of Höt Lixx's third album, 1990's fU, was a tribute to Ansel Adams' famed Group f/64 (named for a very small aperture on a view camera lens), as was the album's cover image of the group making obscene gestures, rendered with the extreme depth of field and billowing clouds associated with his purported grandfather's photographic technique. Two songs were credited to Adams, Suck it 2 Ya and Balls to the Mall. Bassist Franklin Roosevelt recounts, "I felt like I'd heard Balls to the Mall before, but Ace said it was, like, part of our collective unconscious or something. He'd make you feel really lame."[25] Two months after the album's release, the heavy metal band Accept sued Höt Lixx, alleging that Adams had plagiarized their 1983 song, Balls to the Wall. While Höt Lixx's version was two octaves higher, the melody and lyrics were virtually unchanged. Accept's lyrics read, "Build a wall with the bodies of the dead," compared with Adams' lyrics: "Build a mall with the bodies of the dead."

Adams was initially defiant, proclaiming, "Höt Lixx does not bow to Swabians"[26]—possibly a reference to the Bavarian ancestry of two members of Accept. But in October Höt Lixx settled out of court for $5,000 and the promise not to perform the song in concert. Accept lead singer Udo Dirkschneider recalled, "He was quite stealing person. Yes, and not so smart."[27] Adams categorically denies plagiarizing Balls to the Wall, saying, "How could I have ripped them off when their song was released six years before mine was even written? It's mathematically impossible."[28] The controversy led to Adams' departure from the band in 1991. Rikki Foreman told Metal Edge magazine, "We got a reputation to uphold, and this is some embarrassing ____. I mean, ripping off another band, big deal. But a Dutch band? Not cool. We had to let him go."[29] (Accept was actually German).

But according to heavy metal historian Darth Baker's anthology Hair Band Babylon, Adams' plagiarism was just the last in a series of embarrassing episodes:

[Adams] had this weird appearance at a middle school assembly in November, 1990. It was Literacy Week at Macalester Junior High in Burbank, and Adams announced, "You can run but you can't read," and starts what the school principal, Debbie Rogers Foster, called "prolonged simulated sexual activity" (although she couldn't identify the "activity"). Rock N Roll! But someone filmed it, and video of Adams squating [sic] and making the sign of the horns shows up on "The Headbanger's Ball" on MTV.[30]

Adams insists he chose to leave the band. In his self-published autobiography, Ace in the Hole: The Bill Adams Saga, he wrote, "The fact is they couldn't handle my heat. It's been shown repeatedly that a low-potency individual cannot assimilate a highly potent individual's energy. His body is simply going to reject it. The Greeks knew it. Shakespeare knew it. Einstein proved it."[31]

Höt Lixx released two more albums, with former Lumpen guitarist Staci "Hair Ball" Harrison replacing Adams, before disbanding in 1995. The song Höt Chixx was used in the video game, "Hot Chicks," in 2010. Adams wrote defiantly in his autobiography, "I created some of the höttest lixx in Rock and Roll. Now it was time to create some of the höttest pixx in photögraphy. And it didn’t take long, Hömie."[32]


Adams has consistently maintained that he was inspired to photograph when his grandfather Ansel whipped him with a cable release (a cord that trips the shutter of a traditional camera). His first photographs, at the age of five, were blurry pictures of carpet, furniture, and sometimes his own feet. Several of his images were completely unexposed, a conceptual approach he returned to frequently in later years.

Maximum Torque, a staged photograph of an apparently squatting Tomàs de Torquemada (1420-1498), first Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition

Adams has often suffered from nasal congestion, and his first photographic series after leaving Höt Lixx was entitled "Sinüs Rinse," featuring him administering various sinus relief therapies. He recently recalled: "They're potent. A lot like the Equivalents (Alfred Stieglitz's celebrated series of cloud photographs), but it didn't take me ten years. It was kind of like Saturday Night Fever, when Tony finally cuts loose on the dance floor, and everybody just stops, and they're in awe of his potency. And they can never dance again because they can't be as potent."[33] The sinus infection ultimately went viral. Writing in фотография Сегодня, Anatoly Puditart called it "an inane concept, executed with misguided enthusiasm."[34]


Adams has completed three photographic series, "The Master Suite," "Call for Submission" and "Zero Tölerance," celebrating what he calls "The Great Dictators." He has termed his philosophy of art "Authoritarianism," claiming "It's catching on all over the world."[35] He has created elaborate staged portraits of numerous tyrants in fully or modified squatting poses, which he termed "regal."[36] Among his subjects were: Nero ("The First Rock Star"), Cleopatra ("Cher 1.0"), Genghis Khan ("Mongol Power"), Tomàs de Torquemada ("Maximum Torque"), Kim Jong-il ("il Kim"), and Dick Cheney ("Cheney Got a Gun").

The critic Krzysztof Mungry called it "a provocative idea but the expected ironic payoff never arrives, as the images appear to be sincere, if misguided, tributes."[37] Adams countered, "We need collectively to confront the fact that many of these attacks are racially motivated."[38] He summarized his philosophy: "I have a zero tölerance policy, whether it's dissent, grunge, natural fiber, antivenom, dolphins, what have you. My work represents a new relationship between the artist and his audience. There's a new sheriff in town, and he's callin' the shöts."[39]

[edit]Historical Claims

Bill Adams has repeatedly claimed to have unearthed scandalous or groundbreaking information related to the history of photography. An unnamed professor was quoted in a 2007 article discussing these assertions: "He makes one idiotic allegation after another, and rather than retracting it he doubles down and claims something even more ludicrous. For Adams it's no sources, no footnotes, no clue, no problem."[40] Adams responded, "I don't live in an ivory tower. I'm a rock and roll legend who happens to be a savant. They circle the wagons. I kick ass."[41]

Among the controversial claims Adams has made: drinking photographic fixer in moderation cures irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) [42]; Henri Cartier-Bresson was a member of Opus Dei [43]; Alfred Stieglitz bore the mark of the beast, but instead of "666" it was "291" [44]; and, noted photographer William Christenberry operated a cock-fighting emporium outside Tuscaloosa, Alabama.[45] Celebrated critic Sire Jessup called the allegations "Very sexy. Maybe that's why these playa haters are so hot and bothered."[citation needed]

[edit]X Portfolio

Citing confidential sources, Adams maintained in a 2002 article that the figures in Robert Mapplethorpe's explicit "X Portfolio" were soldiers in the Gambino crime family:

John Gotti was Old School, Baby. Of course he believed in murder, racketeering, and extortion, but most of all he believed in the Renaissance. He thought Mapplethorpe was a latter-day Michelangelo, and he was determined that a Gambino should be his David. So he made the soldiers available to Mapplethorpe, and the rest is history. The beauty of it was that the code of omertà protected their identities.[46]

Mob historian Richard DeLuca commented in a Fox News interview promoting his 2003 book Code of Silence: "There's been lots of strange claims about the mafia, but this one takes the cake. So Gotti has Paul Castellano whacked and he takes over the family, but his position is precarious. I mean, he's got to be worried about the loyalty of the soldiers and even some of the capos...[T]he idea that he's loaning out his men for nudie photo shoots is freakin' nuts."[47] But he concedes that the claim is "so bizarre it might be true," adding, "Gotti loved the element of surprise, and there are photographs of him with Sam Wagstaff (Mapplethorpe's companion and mentor), so you never know."[48]

A Southworth and Hawes advertisement for an enema treatment for mercury poisoning, using an instrument called "Lady Liberty." Milliners also often suffered from so-called "mad hatter disease" caused by exposure to mercury.

[edit]Josiah Hawes

Since 2000 Adams has argued that 19th-century photographer Josiah Hawes (1808-1901) murdered numerous photographers who had abandoned the daguerreotype for the "wet plate" process (a recently invented method of exposing negatives on sensitized glass plates). Mildred Hawes Carlton recounted attending an Adams lecture in 2007:

He was an odious little man, strutting around and shaking his caboose. He said my great granddaddy Josiah did unspeakable things to photographers who were giving up that technique of his. So I asked this whippersnapper if he had any evidence, and he replied, "I'd show you, but then I'd have to kill you." I told him, "I'm a 90-year old woman," and he said, "Well, that should make it easy."[49]

Adams explained in a blog post:

By the 1850s lots of daguerreotypists were suffering from prolonged exposure to mercury fumes. In 1854 Southworth and Hawes (a Boston-based photographic firm operating from 1843 to 1863) advertised a "potent and mysterious elixir"—an enema that "cleanseth quicksilver (liquid mercury) from within." Now Southworth was a milquetoast. But Hawes was rock 'n' roll. And his diaries talk about "The Darke Broth" that "dare not freaze." They weren't getting cleansed, bro, they were getting mercury up the yin-yang.[50]

But Dr. Sergius Poteet of Duke Medical School concluded that a mercury enema would have been virtually impossible to administer with the existing technology, unless the patient was suspended upside down.[51] And in Spectacular Discomfort: Digestive Ailments in Nineteenth Century America, Ewen Meacham argued that chronic malnutrition sometimes produced neurological and psychological symptoms consistent with heavy metal poisoning.[52] Adams replied, "The critics called it pollution, they called it noise, they called it screaming. So now heavy metal is poison. These pantywaists need to chill the ____ out...maybe take an enema."[53]

Still, the daguerreotype historian John Roger Holmes was sympathetic to Adams' allegations: "We have to contend with two anomalous facts—that numerous photographers in Boston in the 1850s died under mysterious circumstances, and that Josiah Hawes was an enigmatic individual with decadent appetites. But to go from there to one of the worst serial killers in American history, I'm highly skeptical."[54] Adams retorted, "Enigmatic? Try enematic. If you can't take the heat, get off the pot, Holmes."[55]

[edit]Dirty Harry

Adams argued in a 2009 article that the 1971 film Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood, was inspired by the noted photographer and educator Harry Callahan (1912–1999). The film followed San Francisco police inspector "Dirty Harry" Callahan, but the original script was titled "Dead Right," and centered around a rogue Chicago cop named "Iron Joe" McQuaid. Adams explained:

Someone recommended Callahan as an advisor because he had photographed Chi-Town up and down. So (director Don) Siegel and (cinematographer Bruce) Surtees meet up with Callahan in the Windy City to scout locations, and some lowlife starts hassling them. Callahan whips out a sync cord, and sneers, "Do you know what the word 'garrote' means?" So this moron says Callahan wouldn't dare hurt him with all these people around. Callahan saunters over twirling the cord and he goes, "Do you feel lucky, Punk?" Siegel immediately decides to use the line in the movie, and they start calling the hero "Dirty Harry." But it's not until just before shooting begins that they actually change the cop's name to Harry Callahan.[56]

Jerzy Beuys, T. Prosser Praeger Professor of Conceptual Art at the Rhode Island School of Design, noted, "By the time the supposed incident occurred, Callahan had left Chicago to teach at the Rhode Island School of Design. And if he was involved in movies he left no written record. As usual Adams undermines his case by refusing to divulge his sources."[57] Adams responded, "The Rhode Island School of Design is a cadre of Freemasons who are obsessed with precipitating the Rapture. Of course they're going to protect their own, no matter how many people have to die. It's gonna make Left Behind look like Little House on the ______' Prairie."[58]

A composited photograph accompanying Adams' 2007 Wikipedia entry, with Cyrillic lettering on the suit spelling "Bulgaria"

[edit]Internet Controversies

Bill Adams has been involved in several controversies involving fake websites and Internet campaigns. He has long admired Donald Trump, whom he called "an historically potent individual,"[59] and in 2009 launched a campaign to be included on an upcoming season of The Celebrity Apprentice with a website called (with "celebrity" apparently misspelled). The effort was unsuccessful.

A Wikipedia entry for Adams appeared in 2007, stating that he was a former U.S. Olympic athlete. In the accompanying photograph, Adams' head appears to have been photoshopped onto a Bulgarian platform diver, but the diving briefs still had Cyrillic letters on them. Adams denied any involvement.[60] His Wikipedia entry has been repeatedly amended with dubious information, including lengthy descriptions of romantic escapades (which were disputed by former bandmates).[61] The entry was temporarily shut down in February 2009 after it reproduced an unsourced recipe for a mercury enema, and again in January 2012 when it stated that Adams had been nominated for The Nobel Prize in Photography (The Nobel Committee does not award prizes in art).

A 2014 investigation by Wikipediocracy researchers implicated Adams in a series of "revenge edits" (malicious edits motivated by hostility), using sock puppets "Bwoww" and "Squatter" to smear former bandmates as well as critics who had eviscerated his work.[62] There have also been recent allegations that Adams has created a duplicate Wikipedia page about himself, outside the aegis of Wikipedia but using its logo and format, which grossly misrepresents his life and work.[63]


Bill Adams has been widely recognized as one of the innovative guitarists of the 20th century. Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers called him "…an epic bad-ass and an amazing guitarist."[citation needed] Legendary guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan said he "picks up where Jimi Hendrix left off," noting, "If I was still alive I'd jam with him in a heartbeat."[citation needed]

Adams’ photographic contributions have been called "a breathtaking smorgasbord of fin-de-siècle leitmotifs,"[citation needed] and "magnificently repressive."[citation needed] One prominent critic suggested, "His grandpa must be smiling right now," noting, "His humility is awe-inspiring."[citation needed]

[edit]Global Warming

Adams has taken no position on global warming, and is currently waiting for the three sides to submit final arguments before issuing an advisory.

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